Am I Protected From Retaliation?
Yes. All railroad workers are protected by the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), which prohibits all railroads from retaliating against workers who blow the whistle on safety, injuries or fraud. Subway workers are protected by the National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA), and merchant mariners are protected by the Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA). Airline, trucking, environmental, financial and medical employees also have statutory whistleblower protection.
What Whistleblower Conduct Is Protected?
Examples of “protected activity” under the FRSA include:
- Reporting injuries
- Notifying the railroad of your own work-related injury or illness
- Notifying the railroad of a co-worker’s work-related injury or illness
- Raising safety concerns
- Reporting a hazardous safety or security condition
- Refusing to violate any federal law, rule or regulation relating to rail safety or security
- Refusing to authorize the use of unsafe railroad equipment, track or structures
- Seeking medical treatment
- For any work-related injury, railroad managers and medical department personnel cannot deny, delay or interfere with the employee’s medical treatment during the period immediately following the injury
- For any work-related medical condition, a railroad cannot discipline an employee for following a treating doctor’s orders or treatment plan
- Fraud or waste of public funds
- Providing information regarding the fraud, waste or abuse of government funds connected to rail safety or security
What Remedies Are Available To Me?
The FRSA is a “make whole remedy” law that gives workers the power to force the railroad:
- To void and expunge your discipline
- To reinstate you with all seniority and benefits unimpaired
- To pay you back wages with interest
- To pay for all your economic losses
- To pay unlimited emotional distress damages
- To pay punitive damages up to $250,000
- To pay your attorney’s fees and costs
When Do I Need To File A Whistleblower Retaliation Complaint?
The window for filing an FRSA complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Whistleblower Protection Directorate is only 180 days. That means you have 180 days to file from the date you knew or should have known the railroad has decided to take an adverse action against you. This usually is from the date of the initial charge letter, NOT from when an arbitrator issues a final decision. So if you believe a railroad has retaliated against you for reporting an injury (or any of the other “protected activities” listed above), call me as soon as possible so we can determine if you have an FRSA claim and, if so, how best to protect your rights.
How Can I Learn More About My Whistleblower Rights?
Here is a summary of rail whistleblower rights
Here is a white paper on the FRSA’s special legal standards
Also, the Rail Whistleblower Library has a comprehensive listing of cases broken down by subject matter.
For updates on important FRSA developments, type your email address into the free subscription box at my blog: https://www.trainlawblog.com/